Begin Greatly Satisfied with Navon’s Visit to Egypt

Premier Menachem Begin expressed great satisfaction today with President Yitzhak Navon’s visit to Egypt last week. He told the weekly Cabinet meeting that he considered Navon’s reception by the Egyptians an honor to Israel and that his mission was conducted wholly within the terms of the government’s policy. Navon returned to Israel last Thursday.

Begin’s comments were seen as a further denial of rumors that he was unhappy over Navon’s discussion of political matters with President Anwar Sadat and Vice President Hosni Mubarak rather than limiting his contacts with the Egyptians to ceremonial matters.

Navon gave Begin and his aides a general briefing on his visit Friday and later met privately with the Premier for a more detailed briefing. Begin said he told Navon he judged the visit to have been “very successful” and to have contributed to the rapprochement between Israel and Egypt.

Navon reportedly was not asked by Sadat to convey a special message to Begin. But he did relay certain ideas suggested by the Egyptian leader to end the present deadlock in the autonomy talks. Begin told reporters that there was no talk of the “Gaza first” concept with Navon in Cairo. Sadat is still proposing an overall agreement an autonomy which, he believes, should be applied first to the Gaza Strip, Begin said.

NAVON ASSESSES HIS VISIT

Navon himself assessed his five-day visit to Egypt, the first by an Israeli President, as successful “beyond expectations. ” On a television interview last Friday, he said the Egyptians had agreed to all but one of his proposals to expedite the normalization process between the two countries. These included agreements in the fields of culture, commerce, aviation and youth and student exchange visits. They did not accept his proposal that Israel and Egypt convene a scientific conference in Jerusalem.

The President insisted that the aim of his visit was to impress upon the Egyptians Israel’s desire for peace rather than to relay political messages. “I did not come to Egypt to voice new ideas. I assumed that the Camp David agreement must succeed, unhindered by any other considerations,” he said.

Sadat apparently shares the view of Begin and Navon that the Israeli President’s visit was on outstanding success. Before Navon’s departure from Cairo he had high praise for the Israeli chief of state. He told Navon at Cairo Airport, “You have come and conquered the hearts of the Egyptians.” Mubarak, who was also at the airport to see off their guest said, “Navon’s visit was very successful because it improved understanding on both sides and helped to clarify many problems.” He added that the way Egyptians received Navon proved Egypt was sincere in its quest for peace.

When Navon landed at Ben Gurion Airport Thursday evening he said he was “satisfied, very satisfied,” with what had been achieved. “I did not go to negotiate. I went to explain and to listen. It is important that we listen to others. I went to bring to the knowledge of three Egyptian circles — the press, the men of letters and the entire people — those things that we in Israel, the majority in Israel, agree upon,” Navon told reporters.

He also observed that “I spoke their language and that brought down the barriers.” Navon, who is of Moroccan origin, speaks Arabic fluently and was able to converse with Egyptians of all walks of life. He delivered his address to the leadership of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party in Arabic.

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